PREP VOLLEYBALL: Bear River bounced from DIV playoffs by Escalon |

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Bear River bounced from DIV playoffs by Escalon

No tricks or treats, just a tough pill to swallow as the Lady Bruins volleyball squad served up a valiant effort, but fell to Escalon in its Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff opener Tuesday at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.

No. 6 seed Bear River battled hard, but couldn’t overcome a feisty No. 11 Escalon team, as the Cougars advanced in a three set sweep, 25-16, 26-24, 25-23.

“It’s tough to swallow,” said Bear River head coach Matt MacDonald, whose squad let a 17-10 lead slip away in the second set and lost hold of a 21-16 advantage in the third. “But I’m super proud of the kids. They grew so much this year and battled. We had nine seniors that committed everything to the program. Bummer obviously to go out in round one on Halloween at home, but it’s been a good ride.”

Escalon came out strong in the first set and dictated the tempo, not allowing Bear River to find any rhythm as it opened up a quick 8-1 lead and stormed ahead 19-9 before closing it out.

“Escalon is very good,” added MacDonald. “We kind of have a history. We were joking with their coach like, ‘Man, we keep running into each other, this sucks. Let’s run into each other a little bit deeper. Let’s play each other in a final or something.’”

Answering back, the Lady Bruins roared out to a 17-10 advantage in the second set, but struggled to keep the attack going as the Cougars clawed their way back to tie it 23-23, and again 24-24, overcoming game-point to eventually steal the set 26-24.

“Our only real downfall this year is our inability to hold a lead,” added MacDonald. “It’s weird. We’ve had that happen so many times this year. Against Placer, Colfax up 24-19, blew it.”

Trailing 2-0 with their backs and season against the wall, the Lady Bruins forged ahead in the third set to grab a 13-12 lead and rallied, extending it to 21-16. Yet again, the Cougars pounced on every opportunity and knotted things up, 22-22, before sealing the match for good.

Leading Bear River’s offensive attack was junior Callie Bickmore, who finished with 18 kills, two blocks and three digs. Senior Mallory Rath smashed down seven kills, recorded an ace, an assist and seven digs. Junior Caitlyn McLaughlin set her teammates up nicely, tossing up 32 assists to go with a kill, an ace and six digs. Senior Kayla Toft led the team defensively with 18 digs.

Rounding out the offense was senior Karinne McDonald with five kills, a block and two digs, followed by senior Kylee Dresbach-Hill who contributed six kills, two assists and seven digs.

“We have a bright future,” said MacDonald. “Two returning kids that are pretty special, so we’ll be back.”

Bear River (16-17) enters its off-season and Escalon will take on No. 3 Calaveras in the quarterfinals Thursday.

Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.

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